Don’t look now, but our self-avowed “pro-life” governor just nominated a pro-choicer to the state Supreme Court. I’m not talking about Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, the liberal Democrat whom Christie reappointed in a deal with the Democrats. If Rabner…
The current judicial crisis offers and excellent opportunity to take a look at how New Jersey chooses and installs its judges — and how that process differs from many other states. In 38 states, at least some appellate and major trial court judges…
Governor Christie’s press office just issued the following statement:
“Governor Christie has always maintained that he would abide by the will of the voters on the issue of marriage equality and called for it to be on the ballot this Election Day. Since the legislature refused to allow the people to decide expeditiously, we will let the Supreme Court make this constitutional determination.”
Today’s decision requiring the state to officiate same-sex marriages was made by Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson sitting in Mercer County. In order for the Supreme Court to decide the constitutionality the issue, Jacobson’s ruling will have to be appealed.
A Superior Court Judge in Mercer County ruled that New Jersey officials must begin officiating same sex marriages by October 21, according to a report in The Star Ledger.
Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson granted an emergency request by six gay couples, ordering state officials to begin officiating same-sex marriages on Oct. 21.
“The ineligibility of same-sex couples for federal benefits is currently harming same-sex couples in New Jersey in a wide range of contexts,” she wrote.
For example, the judge said, “civil union partners who are federal employees living in New Jersey are ineligible for marital rights with regard to the federal pension system, all civil union partners who are employees working for businesses to which the Family and Medical Leave Act applies may not rely on its statutory protections for spouses, and civil union couples may not access the federal tax benefits that married couples enjoy.”
Jacobson was asked to square the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June striking down the Defense of Marriage Act with New Jersey’s own legal precedents.
Never mind the 1% to 99% rhetoric that has worked its way into our lexicon since the Occupy movement moved into Zuccotti Park. With yesterday’s 3-2 decision that judges are exempt from New Jersey’s pension and health benefits reform, our State’s judiciary have declared themselves the .005%. They are the truly elite. The 400 of New Jersey’s 8.8 million citizens. They don’t have to share in the sacrifice.
As Governor Christie said in Atlantic City yesterday,
“What we did, the administration and the Legislature, was demand that everybody in public employment pay their fair share for the benefits they’re going to get like people in the private sector do every day. And I cannot believe that we’re going to permit one small sector of folks (to be exempt), who consider themselves special, and who by the way granted themselves this special treatment themselves. That doesn’t make any sense to me.’’
“If you’re a police officer, or a fire fighter, or a teacher in this state, and you’re paying more for your health benefits and your pension, I’ve got a feeling you’re pretty frosted if it turns out that a group of judges decides for the whole group of judges that they don’t have to pay their fair share.’’
Christie told NJ 101.5’s audience on his monthly Ask the Governor show last night that if the legislature puts a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot this fall, he will campaign for it. That will be the easiest campaign in the history of the world. There will likely be 3.9 million New Jerseyans voting on November 6. There are about 400 judges. If all of the judges got all of their family members and friends to vote against the Constitutional Amendment, would that add up to even 10,000 votes? I don’t think so.
As Senator Joe Kyrillos said yesterday, “Judicial independence does not mean judicial supremacy and exceptionalism.” If the legislature acts by August 6, and it looks as though they will, the people of New Jersey will be sending the Judicial branch an overwhelming reminder that they work for us. In America, even in New Jersey, the people are Sovereign. “All political power is inherent in the people.”
Even though there is not much time, the legislature should consider recommending other changes to Article VI, Section VI of the State Constitution to the people, since we’ll be making changes to the clause anyway.
Is seven years too long before a Judge is reviewed and reconfirmed? How about 3 or 4 years? Is tenure after 7 years, if reconfirmed, until mandatory retirement at age 70 still appropriate? How about a review and reconfirmation every 4, 5, or 7 years until retirement. When the retirement age of 70 for judges was affirmed by Constitutional Amendment in 1978, the average life expectancy in the United States was 73.5. Now, the average life expectancy is 78. Why not increase the mandatory retirement age to 75 or 80? How about establishing a voluntary retirement age before being eligible to collect a pension at 70. Those would create some pension savings.
The Judiciary has given the Legislature an opportunity to make substantive adjustments to the .005%’s superiority and exceptionalism.
As Governor Christie told a Town Hall meeting audience in Garfield on May 2, it is extraordinarily difficult to hold judges accountable in New Jersey. Now would be a good time to make some changes.
If you agree, contact your legislators and the governor. Pass this column on and ask others to do the same. Time is short.
NJBiz is reporting that up to 80 tenured New Jersey Judges will file suit later this month challenging the recent pension and health benefit reforms passed by the State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Christie.
The suit is to be filed in Hudson County and a Hudson County Judge will be one of the name plaintiffs.
Judges currently earn between $165,000 to $192,795 each year, and contribute from $4,950 to $5,783 to their pensions annually, according to the memo, which was issued by Superior Court Judge Melvin Gelade. Under the recently passed public worker pension and health legislation, judges hired after January 1996 would, after seven years, see their annual retirement contributions jump to between $19,800 and $23,135 a year.
The suit will ask for a temporary injunction blocking the changes, and is expected to be filed in a Hudson County court, with a Hudson County judge to be named as the lead plaintiff.
“It is anticipated that only tenured judges should actively participate in, and contribute to, the financing of a suit,” according to the memo. “Non-tenured judges may anticipate being asked about their involvement at their reappointment hearings.”
Attorney Justin Walder, a member of the Roseland law firm Walder, Hayden & Brogan, will represent the plaintiffs, according to the memo. Walder did not return multiple calls seeking comment.
“The state constitution prevents the government from tampering with our compensation while we’re serving our term,” said a judge who expects to join the suit. “We thought we would be exempt from Christie’s pension and health cutbacks, but this appears to be payback for the state Supreme Court’s Abbott District ruling.”
The judges believe the suit will ultimately reach the state Supreme Court, and hope to have the high court hear it before Christie nominee Anne Patterson is seated in September, according to the judge, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner will recuse himself from the case, the judge added.
Well it is a good thing that Rabner will recuse himself, but how do they know that given that the suit hasn’t been filed yet?
How can any New Jersey Judge possibly hear this case without a conflict?